A real Memorial Day and a Pentecost moment

May 26, 2015

Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces.Usually it is a day of sentimental nostalgia, long on the greatness of the American Empire as the saviour of the world syndrome and short on the reality that the modern wars especially Vietnam and Iraq were catastrophic blunders.Monday was memorial Day in the USA.

As usual Democracy Now the thoughtful NPR American radio show hosted by that audio treasure Ami Goodman brought a whiff of reality and self-reflection into public consciousness.The show focused on Vietnam and in particular the brave people who resisted this imperial misadventure.

Fifty years ago, on March 7, 1965, 3,500 U.S. marines landed in South Vietnam, marking the start of the U.S. ground war in Vietnam. That same day, in Alabama, state troopers beat back civil rights protesters in Selma trying to walk over the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Weeks later, the first teach-in against the Vietnam War was held at the University of Michigan. By 1968, the U.S. had half a million troops in Vietnam. The war continued until April 1975. Some scholars estimate as many as 3.8 million Vietnamese died during the war, up to 800,000 perished in Cambodia, another one million in Laos. The U.S. death toll was 58,000.

On May 2 and 3 a conference entitled “Vietnam: The Power of Protest”  was held at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C.One of the speakers was former Oakland Congress member Ron Dellums, who was elected to Congress in 1970 during the height of the Vietnam War and went on to serve 27 years in that branch of government.

Listening to Dellums a number of thoughts crossed my mind.

First, bravo to the Presbyterian Church for daring to hold such an important look at history. You will never find a Catholic church stepping beyond the safe and predictable, so bourgeois and middle class has the institution. Today in San Francisco where Dellums is from (actually across the bay in Oakland) Catholics took a full page ad out to ask the pope to remove the John Paul ll bishop Salvatore Cordileone. The plea follows months of dissent within the archdiocese over Cordileone’s emphasis on traditional, conservative church doctrine — including asking high school teachers and staffers at Catholic schools to sign a morality clause that characterizes sex outside of marriage and homosexual relations as “gravely evil.”.

sleep

The point here being that the last 30 years the Catholic church under the last two popes have bypassed prophetic voices within the institution and raised up timorous bishops who seemingly do not have a prophetic bone in their bodies. You would be hard pressed here and the USA to find a church which would host such an event on war and peace, poverty, the environment etc.

Dellums

Dellums, a 79 year old black man made several interesting points which should have spoken to Christians who just celebrated Pentecost, the explosive force of the Spirit which sent believers out to transform society.

First, he pointed out how people in big American cities in the turbulent 60s had to hear what we would call “the signs of the times.”

Somethings happening here,what it is ain’t exactly clear,
I think it’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound Everybody look what’s going down

sang the Buffalo Springfield

So, unlike many other places, we were forced to sense each other’s anger, to feel each other’s rage, to listen to each other’s analysis, to feel each other’s passion, to listen to each other’s music. And I maintain that out of that incredible cauldron of activism, a unique group of people emerged. So we heard—we had to hear each other. Interesting word—hear- one had to get beyond the official story, the government handouts, the horrific justifications for war, inn other words,the flag waving.One of the first persons dellums met was Robert Scheer, same age, a New York Jew transplanted to the west coast.Scheer is till active editing the great website Truthdig where another Presbyterian Chris hedges holds for the on a regular basis,

Dellums spoke about his Spirit moment, his time of enlightenment when the black Moses mounted the pulpit on april 4th in riverside church in new york. Martin Luther King Jr. gave one of the greatest speeches in American history—and I would also add—church history. The black Baptist pastor called out his own government in a sermon he called Beyond Vietnam.

MLK

Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world.”

The sermon took the top of Dellum’s head off.iIt was as if he was in that upper room with Jesus.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: ‘Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King?’ ‘Why are you joining the voices of dissent?’ ‘Peace and civil rights don’t mix,’ they say. ‘Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people,’ they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.

In the light of such tragic misunderstanding, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church – the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate – leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.”
Dellums said:

It was courageous and historic. He laid out his moral opposition. He saw it as unjust, illegal and immoral. When he stepped away from the pulpit, he was attacked by people in the civil rights movement by saying, “Martin, stay in your lane, brother. You’re a civil rights activist. Don’t water down the movement. You’re going to invite new enemies. You’re going to detract from what we’re doing. Stay in your lane.” Whites attacked him essentially the same way, by saying, “Reverend Martin Luther King, stay in your lane. You’re a civil rights leader. What do you know about foreign policy and national security and war and peace? Stay in your lane.”

So Martin Luther King begins to criss-cross the country to answer his critics. He comes to Berkeley, California, Sproul Hall steps, University of California at Berkeley, crowded literally with thousands of people. A young black guy, Ron Dellums, standing way in the back of the several thousand people, hanging on every word, didn’t realize at that moment that my life would be changed forever.

Dellums experienced his Damascus moment.

And I would comment on four points that he made in that speech and speeches going forward challenging the war in Vietnam. First, he said, “Why did I stand up?” His response was, “I cannot segregate my moral concerns.” That said to me that we must challenge all forms of injustice, because Martin Luther King said we cannot segregate our moral concerns.

Secondly, he said there are two kinds of leaders, one who waits until the consensus is formed and then run swiftly to the front of the group and declare leadership, but then he said there’s a second kind of leader, who has the audacity and the courage to risk attempting to shape a new consensus. I interpreted that to mean we had carried the burden of racial, cultural and economic oppression, but we did not have to carry the burden of ignorance, that we had the obligation, the right and the responsibility to enter the arena and be educative, to educate our people, to help them to understand the interrelatedness, the interconnectedness, the relationships between and among all issues of oppression and injustice.

One of his lessons of education was a statement that was so vivid, so powerful: “We are dropping bombs in North Vietnam that are exploding in the ghettos and the barrios of America.” How incredibly poetic! How incredibly powerful, the vision! He was saying to people, understand the relationship between the billions of dollars that are being spent to wage war and the inability to address the injustice that is taking place in the ghettos and the barrios of America, the issue of priorities. Very powerful.

But, to me, the most powerful statement, that shaped my life forever, was this comment: “Peace is more than simply the absence of war; it is the presence of justice.” I interpreted that to mean, wow, the peace movement is the ultimate movement. Peace is the superior idea, that the umbrella movement for—of all movements, the peace movement, because to come together under the banner of peace forces us to challenge all forms of injustice.
I
Suppose everyone—because I believe that the movement to end the war in Vietnam ultimately became the largest and most powerful movement in the country. But when the war in Vietnam ended, many of the people went home and left us to fight racism, poverty, hunger, disease, homelessness, helplessness—went home. And my great lament in my life has been: What would have happened in this country and in this world if people had heard Martin Luther King and said, “Now that we’ve ended the war in Vietnam, let’s get on with dealing with other forms of injustice”? What would the world look like?

Martin Luther King told us to raise our voices in the name of peace and justice and equality and peace, because it was the right thing, the moral thing, the ethical thing, the principled thing to do. This generation must do it because it’s now the only thing to do. It has now become the imperative. So what was principle for our generation now is the imperative for this generation, because we know that the price of war is too high. We know that the price of neglect of the issues that affect the human condition, we do it at our peril, so that we have a responsibility now to address the imperative.

A second difference is, Martin Luther King never told us we couldn’t do it. He said go out and change the world. Remember, he said, “I may not be with you at the end, but I have reached the mountaintop, and I can tell you this: We will achieve.” So we felt that we could change the world, and we went out to change the world.

And Catholics all over the world heard the same gospel on Pentecost

pente

Peace be with you.As the Father sent me,so I send you. John 20;21

Oscar Romero beatified

May 24, 2015

Romero

The following is an editorial I wrote in March of 2005 on Oscar Romero.

Yesterday, “the saint of the Americas” was beatified in San Salvador

Oscar Romero: uncanonized saint of the Americas
“It is as much as certain that after this pope, Oscar Romero will be canonized as a saint.” Rembert Weakland, retired archbishop of Milwaukee

With this issue we celebrate the 25th anniversary (March 24, 2005) of the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero, the uncanonized saint of the Americas. CNT has long championed the late martyred archbishop, not only as an epicscopal template for our times, but also as a lens through which we can view lamentable changes in the Roman Catholic church. Romero acts as a bridge between the church of promise, the unfulfilled hope of the Second Vatican Council and the failed restoration of Pope John Paul II.

A little history is in order.

In 1977, El Salvador was in turmoil. The fourteen families controlling the country viewed with alarm the growth of popular organizations and unions. The Church, inspired by the preferential option for the poor articulated in 1968 at Medellin,Colombia, increasingly began to defend those same rights. One of the most dynamic persons was Jesuit Rutilio Grande.

In the first half of 1977, repression, in the form of murder, kidnapping and the expulsion of priests, became commonplace. On Feb.23, Oscar Romero became the archbishop of El Salvador. Progressives were disappointed in the choice, much preferring the more dynamic Bishop Rivera y Damas. Romero was considered a “safe” choice, a man who could be relied upon, one who was deemed “spiritual” and “bookish” by observers. On the other hand his experience in a rural diocese had made him aware of the suffering of the campesinos. Nobody doubted his deep integrity and honesty.

On March 12. his friend Rutilio Grande was brutally murdered .This conservative friend of “the privileged and the powerful,” according to Fr. Vincent O’Keefe, a Jesuit who knew him in Rome, now became the voice of the oppressed. He often said; “It is my lot to gather up the trampled, the dead and all that the persecution of the church leaves behind.”

As the repression deepened, Oscar Romero made the transition from the gray abstraction of chancery life and institutional housekeeping to the Christlife of solidarity with the suffering poor. Holy Week no longer was merely nostalgic. “Liturgical acts are not unincarnated but set in the midst of real life.” For him, that life was increasingly drenched in blood. In May, a wholesale slaughter took place in the Aguilares area which further strengthened his commitment.
Persecution is the sign of the church. We have mutilated the gospel a great deal; we have tried to live a very comfortable gospel,”he said.

Isolated by careerist bishops

In the next two years, Romero’s homilies, which often ran for 90 minutes on the radio and in the Cathedral of San Salvador, consistently called for an end to human rights abuses and a desire for reconciliation. The split with other bishops became pronounced. Romero had no problem recognizing the Spirit in popular organizations, while the other bishops seemed locked into false dichotomies, which attempted to reserve God’s activity to the church. The hierarchy became divided especially when Romero was nominated in November 1978 for the Nobel prize by 118 British parliamentarians. This helped shine a light on the appalling conditions in El Salvador.

By 1979, the grumbling of wealthy landowners, other bishops and the papal nuncio had reached the Vatican. In May, four of the five Salvadoran bishops made the shocking accusation that Romero was attempting to impose a “Marxist” pastoral praxis on the church.They said Rutilio Grande was a “turncoat leftist”, murdered by other leftists and made other outrageous charges. In December 1978, the pope placed an “Apostolic Visitor” in the San Salvador diocese. Usually this is seen as a vote of no-confidence. In May, 1979, Romero was called to Rome, but kept waiting by John Paul II.

“I was very much concerned about such an attitude shown toward a bishop of a diocese,” he noted in his diary. He realized that “negative information about my mission has preceded me at the Vatican.” John Paul II seemed obsessed about “unity” in the diocese rather than the staggering abuses of the Salvadoran people. “I replied that I also desired this but unity could not be simulated. It had to be based on the Gospel and the truth.”

Romero, discovering that he was about to be virtually fired, wrote candidly to Cardinal Baggio: “The roots of the present problem are not to be found in the character and personality of the persons but in the highly unjust and conflictive situation of the country. Gospel guidelines and Latin American bishops’ statements of Medellin and Puebla must be in large measure conflictive.”

Romero continued with his defence of the poor, each Sunday listing the death-squad victims. On Feb. 17, 1980, he publicly asked President Jimmy Carter to stop U.S. aid to El Salvador, believing it to be going to military repression .
Unknown to him, the Vatican had planned to fire him. Cardinal Oddi, the head of the Congregation for the Clergy, four days before Romero’s death, decided to reassign the pastor somewhere else in Latin America. “The Salvadoran government viewed his activity “to be in favour of communism.” On March 24, 1980 Romero was gunned down saying mass.

Outpouring of grief

Immediately a tidal wave love engulfed the slain Archbishop from around the world . But John Paul II was silent. His failure to praise Romero, will rank as one of the low points of his pontificate. While condemning the violence, he was mum on Romero. Many anticipated that the pope would have immediately flown to San Salvador and finished the bishop’s mass. His tepid response was shocking. As papal biographer Tad Szulc says, “His treatment of Archbishop Romero and his continued treatment of Romero’s memory are an injustice like no other he has done anyone.”

On Palm Sunday, March 30, bishops and prelates attending Romero’s funeral received a lesson in just what the archbishop was dealing with. The Cathedral was firebombed and forty persons died. Several bishops, including Hamilton’s Paul Reding were radicalized.

In the wake of overwhelming support for Romero, John Paul II finally acknowledged that Romero had “united his life with the service of the poorest of the underprivileged.” Tad Szulc’s conclusion is valid: “The pope protested more about the Polish government’s plans to build a road to the Polish shrine of Czestochowa than he did about the shooting war against his Church in El Salvador.”

John Paul II would make it his business to appoint no more potential Romeros in the church. His next 25 years would be spent in obsession about “orthodoxy,” as if a bishop would be anything but, and forgetting that “justice was a constitutive part of the gospel.” He would make it his business to appoint docile bishops, servants rather than brothers, of the man at the top of a monarchical church, even though such a church was repudiated by Vatican II. The Canadian episcopacy, a major player in justice initiatives and human rights causes in the 1960s and 1970s, became virtual accomplices in what theologian Richard McBrien called, “A slow motion coup in the Catholic church.” Oscar Romero, twenty-five years after his death, Rome to the contrary, remains the prototype of the Christian bishop who authentically reads “the signs of the times” and strives to incarnate God’s reign in history.

Moshe Levinger the father of the settlements

May 23, 2015

Levinger

On May 16, rabbi Moshe Levinger died in Jerusalem and was buried per Jewish custom the following day—in Hebron.

It would take a book to evaluate Levinger’s impact on israeli society.

His name is probably meaningless here but in Israel, Levinger had a dramatic effect on Israel’s politics.
Since I believe in the idea of De mortuis nisii bonum,(about the dead speak nothing but good) i will attempt to be to be as kind as possible to the rabbi.

This may end up like the famous story of Georgie Jessel, the toastmaster of Jewish Hollywood who was roped into doing a eulogy to a man everybody knew was a bastard. Jessel simply pointed to the coffin and said,”His brother was worse.”

Nisi bonum”. Since the reb had 10 kids he probably was a good father.And he was loved by the settlers in the illegally occupied West Bank.

Levinger in 1968 camped out in Hebron during Passover. He refused to leave after the holiday and so began the rise of Gush Emunim, the radical settler movement which continues to destroy Israel and which now with about 600,000 illegals camped out all over Palestinian territory, making a 2 state solution impossible.

Levinger was a product of Kookism, the radical movement of religious Zionism based on the writings of Rabbi Abraham Yitzhak Kook (d.1935) and his prolific charismatic son Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook(d 1982),the head of the infamous Merkaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem.

Levinger was a human dynamo putting flesh on the Kook’s ultrantionalist religious Zionist which swept Israel after the Six Day War(1967) which was seen as a miracle, a transcendent sign that redemption was near and the messiah would follow. Secularists like the then PM Yitzhak Rabin never had a chance against the “god sanctioned” movement. The messianic true believers  were out to liberate the land of the patriarchs and Hebron was its heart. it was part of Judea and Samaria. That Arabs had lived on the land for 1300 years meant nothing to these inspired radicals.

For the Gush, the land had become a holy vessel and the settlement was a divine command.For them it was the apotheosis of Zionism, a movement which had scorned  rabbinic Judaism.For Levinger anybody (read peaceniks like Rabin) willing to swap land for peace was a rodef, a man who would endanger Jewish lives as in the Oslo accords etc.Levinger was the embodiment of Kookism, a fiery angel of theocratic messianism. Get in his way and you will get burned—or murdered as Rabin ultimately was.

Gush Emunim has shot its bolt but its tragic success which brought national secular politicians to their knees lives on. Government after government capitulated to this movement of which Levinger was its hero.

Levinger was like a sheriff in a lawless region. He was arrested several times ,had frequent confrontations with Israeli security forces and killed a Palestinian for which was convicted of negligent homicide and imprisoned for three months. In 1985 he went on a three-month armed vigilante patrol of a Palestinian refugee camp near Bethlehem. The United Nations documented Levinger, “provoked the inhabitants of the camp by firing at them and invading their homes,” and, “reportedly ran along the camp alleys, together with a guard, and both men fired into the air in an indiscriminate manner.” That same year Levinger broke into a Palestinian house in Hebron and assaulted a six-year old. Like many of his arrests that decade, he was given a suspended sentence.n 1986 he was fined 300 shekels for assaulting a soldier at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

For years he terrified the Palestinian majority (160,000 to 800 Jews), much to the fury of the defense Minister Shimon Peres. The man was fearless. He despised the government and urged soldiers to disobey its orders.His model of divine disruption became the template  for other settlements. The government blinked. If it hadn’t there might have been civil war.They had radically miscalculated. Their cowardly inability  to shut him down in 1968 came back to haunt them. In the end Israel paid a huge price for their failure to uphold israeli and international law. Judaism paid a massive price for allowing this man to function as a religious leader. His Judaism functioned as a sad justification for an ethnocratic state and a tribal god.

Levinger was a hero to the the religious ultranationalists. His influence was on Israeli society was catastrophic, on peace in the Middle East equally as devastating.His power in Israel was shown at his death when the president of Israel Reuvin Rivlin stood over his coffin as he was laid to rest.

Rivlinmages

Kill ’em all

May 19, 2015

OZ

The great Israeli novelist Amos Oz is a very funny man.A Zionist of old who was disgusted by the religious ultranationalists who bent every government to their will in Israel. In the mid 70s he was shocked by the arrogance and stupidity of the biblical literalists of the Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful) who started the illegal settlements in the West Bank. This was part of an interview he gave in England in 2011.

A friend of mine, the Israeli novelist Sami Mikhael, told me an episode. He was driven once for a lecture in Ben-Gurion University in Bel Shiva, in my university, he was driven from Haifa, which is a long drive, three hours, by a very militant, right-wing, fanatical taxi driver. And during the drive the chauffeur says to Sami, ‘You know, I believe we have to kill all the Arabs.’ As simple as that.
Sami is a sophisticated man. Instead of saying, ‘Shame on you,’ or instead of just wrapping himself in silence, he turned to the chauffeur and said, ‘Yes, you think so? And who exactly do you think should kill all the Arabs?’ ‘We should kill them. All of us have to kill them.’ ‘No, be more specific, please. Should the police kill them, should the army kill them, should the doctors kill them? Who should kill all the Arabs?’ Quiet. The chauffeur is thinking. Then the chauffeur is saying, ‘I think everyone of us has to kill a few.’Sami doesn’t lose his temper. He never loses his temper. He says to the chauffeur, ‘Okay, suppose you are allocated one block of flats, one block of apartments in Haifa, your home town, and you are to kill all the Arabs in the block.

And you’ll knock on every door or ring every doorbell: excuse me, Sir, excuse me, Madam, are you an Arab? And if the answer is yes, you shoot them and kill them. And you finish the block and you turn to walk home, and then you hear a baby crying from upstairs. Would you go back upstairs and kill the baby? Yes or not?’ Silence. The chauffeur is thinking. Then the chauffeur turns to Sami saying, ‘Sir, you are a very cruel man.’ [Laughter]

The Jewish prophetic alive

May 17, 2015

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It is getting to be a common occurrence at least in the USA that when a synagogue to its shame invites a member of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF),the cruel army of occupation in the West Bank, young Jews of Conscience protest. Last Tuesday Greg Williams and Dan Fischer protested at Temple Israel in Westport Connecticut.

What is impressive about the following statement of Williams is that his historical knowledge matches his moral passion. He begins by quoting Dan Berrigan’s famous lines from The Catonsville Nine about the burning children. This is a thinly veiled critique of Jewish theologian Irving Greenberg’s famous line that “No statement, theological or otherwise, should be made that would not be credible in the presence of burning children.” For Greenberg the only burning children were those who perished in the Holocaust.Basically, Williams turns this statement on its head by obliquely referring to the 521 children “burned” in last summer’s IDF massacre in Gaza. And the lies of Israel to justify such a horrific slaughter in light of these children.

A responder to Williams eloquently stated:
This courageous act of conscience should be publicized as widely as possible and emulated throughout the country. These two young men are pointing the way to a new non-violent tactic, in which Jews confront Israeli war crimes wherever their authors are invited to appear. It is particularly fitting that this event occurred at a synagogue which was shamefully involved in welcoming an active war criminal. The brutal response, crude lies and display of panic over two unarmed protesters shows which side possesses moral courage on this issue. To Gregory and Daniel, thank you and all good wishes for your complete exoneration.

Greg Williams Statement

Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children; the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel house. We could not, so help us God, do otherwise, for we are sick at heart; our hearts give us no rest for thinking of the Land of Burning children.” – Daniel Berrigan, S.J., 1968

BURN

At around 1 pm on Tuesday, 12 May, my colleague, Dan Fischer, and I calmly walked into into Temple Israel, where the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces was holding a lunchtime meeting. So as to appear as non-threatening as possible, we had no bags, no literature – I had even left the small pocketknife I usually carry at home.

We were armed only with a written testimony by Nabila Abu Halima, a Palestinian woman who lives in the Gaza strip, who watched her son be murdered by the IDF during Operation Cast Lead, and who had to flee her home during last year’s Gaza massacre.

Our intention was simple: to read the statement at the FIDF’s meeting, which was hosting a brigadier general in the occupying, colonizing army that is responsible for her suffering, and the suffering of so many other indigenous Palestinian women.
We were there, first and foremost, because we are Jews (additionally, I am a scholar of religious ethics), and we wanted to take responsibility for the racism in our community that fuels Jewish American support for the Zionist Apartheid regime’s continued occupation of Palestinian land.

Growing up, I remember hearing my mother and grandmother telling stories about members of our family who were killed during the Holocaust. One of the lessons that I learned from those stories was the lesson of collective responsibility.

History remembers kindly those Europeans and Americans who took responsibility for the racism in their community which had bred Naziism by protecting Jewish people, by lifting up their voices, and by working to build a political resistance movement to dismantle fascism.

I entered Temple Israel on Tuesday because I feel that, as a Jew living in the United States, the time has come to take responsibility for my community. Zionism is no less racist, no less hateful, and no less violent and threatening to human life and dignity than Naziism. Like Naziism, Zionism seeks to build a nation upon an ethnocentric vision which erases the lives of people it considers “undesirable.”

When Dan and I reached the second floor of the synagogue, we told staff exactly why we were there. We said that we had come to read a statement from a Palestinian woman at the FIDF event, and that we would leave voluntarily when we were done, or when we were ordered to do so by a police officer.The staff immediately assaulted us, and tackled us to the ground. We did not take any physical action against them. Instead, we started to read the statement that we had come to deliver and, since we were still outside the door of the meeting room, we did so loudly so that as many people would hear us as possible. The staff kicked our phones away, we began to say “Free, Free Palestine!”

Even though we had told the staff what we were doing, and had made clear that this was a nonviolent political demonstration, they turned around and, over the phone and in our hearing, filed a false police report, claiming that we were armed. “We’re unarmed!” we said, “Tell them we are unarmed! We are Jews coming to a synagogue!”

Because the staff (and apparently several others) filed this false police report, we are told that several schools were put on lockdown – this is one of the dangers of filing a false report or making a frivolous 911 call.

Since then, people from senators to judges to newspaper reporters have called us “violent,” “criminals,” even “terrorists.” I ask you, who is the terrorist? Someone who reads a statement from a Palestinian woman, or the general who helps murder that woman’s child?

What is violent, to protest that general, or to hold a public event to support her and the illegitimate armed force that she serves? There are those who say that they felt threatened by our action. I ask, what does it say about your community that you feel threatened by two nonviolent protesters testifying to the violence of that racist hate-ideology called Zionism?

Could this mean that your community is committed to racism and hatred? There are those who say that they felt threatened by our volume. I respectfully submit that there are times, especially times when children are being murdered by a colonial regime and a racist ideology, when it is an act of violence not to yell and scream.

Gregory Williams
New Haven

Jewish prophetic alive and growing in USA

May 15, 2015

You gotta love Greg Williams.

He and his pal Dan Fischer had the prophetic nerve to do what all Jewish prophets have done—intervene, say to the people, you are going in the wrong direction.

greg_williamsdan_fischer

Dan Williams                                                                   Greg Fischer

What was their crime?

On May 12 they protested inside the Temple Israel synagogue in Westport, Connecticut. Now I believe the people who hosted the friends of the Israel Defense Forces are good people but like too many Jews outside of Israel are simply ignorant about what is transpiring there. Well, Williams and Fischer simply wanted to remind fellow Jews about the reality.Their brave intervention was highlighted on The Electronic Intifada.

In a letter to local media, Williams says that he and Fischer were violently assaulted after they entered the temple and explained that they wanted to read a “testimony by Nabila Abu Halima, a Palestinian woman who lives in the Gaza Strip, who watched her son be murdered by the IDF during Operation Cast Lead [in 2008-2009], and who had to flee her home during last year’s Gaza massacre.”

After they were violently restrained, the pair started to read their statement anyway and began to shout “Free, Free Palestine!”
“Our intention was simple: to read the statement at the FIDF’s meeting,” Williams writes, “which was hosting a brigadier general in the occupying, colonizing army that is responsible for her suffering, and the suffering of so many other indigenous Palestinian women.”
“We were there, first and foremost, because we are Jews,” Williams adds, “and we wanted to take responsibility for the racism in our community that fuels Jewish American support for the Zionist Apartheid regime’s continued occupation of Palestinian land.”

“To say that the IDF empowers women is to say that Palestinian women don’t matter,” Fischer told synagogue security as they tackled him to the ground, according to a press release from him and Williams sent to The Electronic Intifada. “Events like this normalize the brutal occupation.”

As he was being detained by synagogue security, Williams told staff members, “I am a Jew coming to a synagogue today. I want to be part of a religion based on emancipation and democracy, not one based on colonialism, white supremacy, and apartheid,” according to the pair’s press release.

Williams said he was shocked to learn after his release that several schools had been put into lockdown after attendees at the talk made what he called a “false report to police that he and Fischer were armed.”

“We were nonviolent,” Williams said. “The real threat to children is the IDF. If people felt so threatened by two protesters chanting ‘Free Palestine’ and reading testimony from Gaza that schools went into lockdown, imagine what it is like for one of your community’s schools to become a bomb shelter during an IDF raid.”

FIDF raises millions of dollars each year to support the Israeli army. It helps fund “lone soldiers,” young American Jews who travel to Israel to participate directly in military occupation and other activities involving gross breaches of Palestinian human rights.

FIDF recently released a video publicizing its support for a sniper from Texas who took part in Israel’s assault on Gaza last summer that killed more than 2,200 Palestinians including at least 547 children.

One response to this travesty on the Electronic Intifada read

Jews who support Israel often do so out of ignorance about what Israel has become. They are also terrified of knowing anything different, so anyone armed with the truth is indeed a terrorist! American Jews, you see, still have a heart and true Jewish principles are alive in those hearts. Upon learning the truth, most Jews are COMPELLED by conscience to renounce their support for ethnic cleansing and incremental genocide committed in THEIR NAME!

This terrifies the leadership of the Israeli regime and the likes of AIPAC. The truth, however, cannot be hidden forever. People are awakening!

Williams and Fischer’s full statement will be posted tomorrow,

Breaking the silence—only in the Letters’ page

May 12, 2015

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Time to break silence on Gaza assault
so writes Dr.Miriam Garfinkle in Sunday’s Star. Both the Star and the Globe did not mention the story of the Israeli Defense Force’s carte blanche to basically shoot anything that moves and they did.The rules of engagement seemed to be non-existent—500 children massacred to begin with. New York times which follows Netanyahu’s every move—zoltz, nada, nothing. A journalistic disgrace. Only the Guardian and The Washington Post and of course Israel’s Haaretz gave it a big play. Letters to the editor often the place where the prophetic rears its timely head. Read on

Published on Sun May 10 2015
The Israeli group Breaking the Silence has just come out with shocking testimonies from Israeli soldiers who served during the assault on Gaza last summer. During 50 days of the assault last summer, more than 2,100 Palestinians in Gaza were killed, the majority of whom were civilians, including more than 500 children.

There was unprecedented destruction of infrastructure leaving well over 100,000 people homeless. More than 10,000 were wounded, including thousands of children many of whom are permanently disabled.

Breaking the Silence is an organization of veteran combatants who have served in the Israeli military who have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of those who have served in the Occupied Territories.
The testimonies obtained from soldiers serving during the assault on Gaza in 2014, reveal the army’s extreme and indiscriminate use of artillery on civilians and wanton destruction.

Previous reports from such groups as Physicians for Human Rights Israel have indicated clearly that civilians were indiscriminately targeted, including in hospitals and ambulances. Testimonies from soldiers given to Breaking the Silence give further evidence to the extreme criminal actions of the Israeli army last summer.
The silence in North America media on this report is deafening. Even Israeli media has reported it. The suppression of the truth does not serve us well. Breaking the Silence has courageously understood this.
It’s time for the North American media to break its silence.
Dr. Miriam Garfinkle, Toronto

Mothers’ Day 2015

May 10, 2015

Julia

Arise then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or tears! Say firmly: ‘We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies.
Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have taught them of charity, mercy and patience.
We women of one country will be too tender of those of another to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.’”

“From the bosom of the devastated earth, a voice goes up with our own. It says, ‘Disarm, disarm!’ The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.
Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after his own time the sacred impress,
not of Caesar but of God.”

So wrote Julia Ward Howe in 1870

Yesterday’s radical thinking becomes tomorrow’s kitsch, taken over by  Lowneys, Laura Secord  and flower shops.

Turbocapitalism as amnesia producer.

Julia Ward Howe saw the horrific results of the American Civil War—and then the beginning of the Franco-Prussian War. In 1870 she wrote her own Mothers’ Day proclamation. Ironically it took till the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 for Woodrow Wilson to officially

“When will they ever learn?”
Pete Seeger

Yehuda Shaull and Breaking the Silence

May 8, 2015

Yehuda

Yehuda Shaull was 30 when we met him in Jerusalem, a very pleasant ex-soldier who could not live with himself .The year was 2010 and he and a few other soldiers simply were unable to keep quiet anymore.They were continuing their work as truth tellers in Israeli society. After being discharged in 2004 he and some comrades started Breaking the Silence with a photo exhibition about  their dirty work in Hebron.

Shaull was a typical Orthodox kid growing up in Jerusalem, the son of a Canadian mother and American father. He wanted to serve in the army and got his wish in Hebron, a hell hole of occupation for Palestinians. To sum up his remarks would be simple: “You can not have occupation and purity of arms, the IDF doctrine about Israel being the most moral army in the world.”

What he saw was moral corruption and the daily humiliation of the original Palestinian settlers.

“We understood that in order to carry out our routine activities as soldiers, whose role is to control the territories and the civilian Palestinian population – we needed to erase the humanity of Palestinians along with our own humanity.”

Launched in the bubble of Tel Aviv where people are laid back and simply do not want to be disturbed about messy things like occupation, Breaking the Silence became a hit. It struck a chord among other sensitive young Israelis who had had the same experience in other parts of the Occupied Territories.

Israeli kids are like any other. And when you hand your mind over to the army and take a vow at torch light at the Western Wall, the army has you. Growing up in a racist society you never meet a Palestinian, well you see what can happen.The Other remains the other.

Hats off to Breaking the Silence, Jews of conscience in Israel.

Now they’ve hit the press with their shocking revelations about the summer slaughter called Protective Edge in Gaza,”a policy of “indiscriminate fire” in “ areas where there are no civilians” except for 1,462 civilians, of whom 495 were children and 253 women.

Not everybody in Israel salutes Shaull.

Traitor

“Kill anything”: a new soldiers’ report from Breaking the Silence

May 7, 2015

Break

The shocking behaviour of the Israeli Defense Force(IDF) in last summer’s slaughter in Gaza is getting fairly wide coverage in the United States (“Kill everything”) —except of course for the New York Times, the “paper of record”. Israel’s media is much more forthcoming here

First some background.

The Hebrew words *tohar ha-neshek *—“the purity of arms” is a concept known to every israeli and believed less and less. Coined by the brilliant Zionist ideologue Bert Katznelson in 1939, it was an attempt to distinguish the Palmach and the Haganah from the terrorist groups Irgun and Lehi who loved to toss bombs indiscriminately in market places. The idea is a good one, an attempt at morality in war. And to be honest it owed its life to the more idealistic strains of Zionism.

In 1992 the Israeli defense force wrote it in its official Ethical Code:

The IDF serviceman’s purity of arms calls for self-control in the use of armed force. He will use his arms only for the purpose of achieving his mission, without inflicting unnecessary injury to human life or limb, or dignity or property, of both soldiers and civilians, with special consideration for the defenseless, whether in wartime, during routine security operations, or in times of peace.”

This is widely believed by diaspora Jewry as it desperately wants to believe in Israel’s morality.

Now Israel’s soldiers are kids, no better or worse than 18-22 years olds anywhere in the world. So we need not demonize them. The fact is they are placed in absolutely horrible circumstances as an army of occupation.Plus they have to navigate the extraordinary propaganda of Israel’s school system in the way it deals with the Palestinians and Israel’s history. Add to this the deep strain of racism in Israel today (read Yoram Binur’s My Enemy, My Self).

It was inevitable that a group of soldiers would begin to say “enough”. This group is called Breaking the Silence, combat soldiers whose unpleasant duty was to work in Hebron, the second largest Palestinian city in the West Bank.You have to visit Hebron to taste real ugliness…170,000 Palestinians and 800 rabid members of Gush Enumim, religious fundamentalists.The role of the IDF is to protect the soldiers and show the natives who is boss. Any human with a scintilla of compassion and integrity would be disgusted with such a brutal job. Among the many decent israelis are a group of soldiers who could not stomach humiliating the native Palestinians. In 2004 in Tel Aviv they mounted an exhibition of testimonies and photographs taken by themselves. The results were not pretty. It was basically washing dirty linen in public, linen well known by the Palestinian populace.

Now, you court danger when you tamper with the myth or the hasbara (propaganda) of Israel that its soldiers are near angels. Give Breaking the Silence full credit.They shocked many citizens and then produced a booklet of their eye-witness testimonies.The only reason I have this book is that I hid it in the middle of my suitcase when exiting the country. Others were not so lucky in the “only democracy in the Middle East”. Border guards were snatching these books from all the pilgrims and tossed them in a huge barrel. Now the book is on Amazon. Censorship hardly ever works.

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And now, after the 4th dirty assault on Gaza, especially the last one in the summer of 2014 the truth is out. Many soldiers can no longer lie about their brutal modus operandi. There is no more covering up the fact.The purity of arms is an obscene lie.

Here is a summary of the coverage

On May 6 a new report based on testimonies of Israeli soldiers concludes the massive civilian death toll from last summer’s Israeli assault on Gaza resulted from a policy of indiscriminate fire. The Israeli veterans group Breaking the Silence released testimonies of more than 60 Israeli officers and soldiers which it says illustrate a “broad ethical failure” that “comes from the top of the chain of command.”

As Britain’s Guardian stated:
Despite the insistence of Israeli leaders that it took all necessary precautions to protect civilians, the interviews provide a very different picture. They suggest that an overarching priority was the minimisation of Israeli military casualties even at the risk of Palestinian civilians being harmed.

More tomorrow.

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